Archive for the 'Rebecca Clever' Category

Posted by: Meghan C | 3rd Apr, 2008

Next Door

 

          “It’s time we move,” my mother says. The family next door, a very young, very blond married couple and their baby, worry her. It’s 1978, I am just eight years old, and in the few months the Dixons have been our neighbors I’ve seen my first pornographic magazine, learned several curse words that I keep to myself, and witnessed the sounds of a wife-beater’s rage through the thin walls of our two-story apartment. We’ve lived here my whole life, and the idea of relocating to a new neighborhood or anywhere beyond Munhall, Pennsylvania frightens me.
         Every building in the development where we live, known as The Projects, looks the same. In the 1940s, the residential plan was constructed as defense housing primarily for Homestead steel mill workers and their families. Our apartment is at the east end of an eight-unit brick row house on crowded Longfellow Drive, which surrounds the area in an oval. The street rises from heavily-traveled West Run Road below it into a great hillside. From the air, Longfellow probably looks like a lasso in full spin, about to close tight around the cars and buildings of the little community within it.
          I know my next-door neighbors’ first names: Sue and ‘Whitey’. Their baby is as fair as her parents. She’s just starting to crawl. Sue and Whitey look as though they could be brother and sister, the tips of their eyelashes are yellow like their wavy hair. I know their voices. I’ve spoken face-to-face with Sue and listened to her talk with my parents. I’ve spoken very little to Whitey. He doesn’t usually acknowledge me, but on those rare occasions when he does, he doesn’t say much. His blue eyes, wide and wild, make me nervous.
         Most often, I hear Whitey after his late nights filled with heavy drinking or drugs. I don’t know he’s drunk or high, my parents tell me he is. I hear what I imagine is the flattened palm of his stiff hand, his fist, maybe his foot in a heavy boot, strike his wife’s body; hear her scream, cry, beg, hit the wall or floor, tumble violently down the staircase on the other side of the shared wall between our apartments. Sometimes I wonder if he hits her hard enough to draw blood; if she’s holding the baby when he hits her. In the silence that follows, my parents speak softly from their bedroom. “It’s okay, kids, go back to sleep.”
         My older sister visits Sue to help her with the baby, or, I will learn later, to smoke a joint. Maybe they discuss the fighting, maybe Sue makes excuses for her husband. Maybe she gives a reason she deserves the beatings. When I am older, I will silently question whether the violence followed a confrontation between Sue and Whitey, maybe about him being out late, about his responsibility as the father of their child, about the money they didn’t have that he spent on cocaine, about not saving any for her. For now, my mother is convinced, she says, “he is dealing.” Strangers, mostly men, stop at the Dixon’s throughout the week for only a few minutes, and at odd times of the day and night.
         One afternoon the fighting is particularly awful, and following a medley of swearing, slapping and shouting, of glass breaking and bodies banging and being slammed against furniture, when it seems the wall will crash in on us, we hear a dull thud. Seconds later, Sue bolts through the back door of our apartment, hysterical, her face swollen and red and streaked with tears. She is holding a large, thick candle and tells my dad between sobs she’s “hit Whitey and really fucking hurt him.” My dad locks the door and reaches for the phone, says he’s dialing the police. Clearly shaken, he nearly shouts it. Sue begs him not to call, says Whitey will kill her. I do not move from my spot next to my building blocks on the living room floor. I do not breathe.
         My dad doesn’t call. A few months later we have packed our toys and records in boxes. A moving truck is parked in front of the apartment, and two men I’ve never seen before are carrying our green crushed velvet couch out the front door.
         I won’t remember saying goodbye to Sue. I will not hear her again, even when she’s screaming. Several streets away form here, our new house has no shared walls.

Posted by: Meghan C | 3rd Apr, 2008

SoCal Seascape

quintet, with gratitude to M.

 

 

I

Thirty-five miles from Hollywood
thirty-five hours from Pittsburgh

from visions of abandoned steel mills
my blue collar Christian
conservative roots

I teeter on the border of reality
faulted land carved from ancient
mines of precious metal

You are Hindu mysticism
reincarnation
my new age religion

                                  I am lost

in the fiery furnace of your gaze

one taboo touch an earthquake
that jolts me awake shouts me
alive

tells me all I believed
is liquid ore slipped through
my fingers

           stolen

sculpted smooth and heated
in the open hearth of your hands

finishing me

 

 

II

Malibu, high in your kitchen

Your voice
at early onset laryngitis,
and the fetching creases around your mouth
from forty-two years of smiles, your mouth
that’s taken to it
lips and tongues and cocks –
both foreign and domestic –
exude sex.

I meditate
on the sacred small of your bare back
          slim surgical scar branded
          just above your ass
while you wipe the counter,
take a toke from a joint,
sip Bordeaux and go on, cleaning
          the muscles in your arms taut and lean with yoga
and talking
          that wide-eyed wisdom from beyond
          ages, other countries,
          the bodies you’ve inhabited.

Self-assured, you stress
the -ck in neck
and rock
and fuck
when you say the words.

I want to trace the scalpel path,
exquisite imperfection,
my desire bleeding across boundaries.

 

 

III

on Coastline, exchanging gifts

In the front seat of your car
we move together in slow motion
like laundry drying, chic pants
and blouses and unmentionables
tumbling toward one another
an improvised ballet –
                                   Me
wild with anticipation.
You at ease, pacing things.

White Christmas lights
blink akin to cameras flashing
on the trunks of palms. In
the dark lonely seeps
from you like music, but
you don’t sing out.

I am not what you want,
though my head swims
with snapshots of tonight:

          You eyes closed
          Me cheek pressed to yours
          You biting my ear
          Me laughing
          You kissing my face
          Me whispering to you
          You wearing his ring
          Me hands opened

 

You know all of my secrets.

Poetry has culled them
from these ink-stained fingers,
and for a moment wound around
your arms I am calm in this
soft flesh, the air thick
with need and compassion

compassion          we give to each other.

 

 

IV

The Queens Necklace*

Resting
at the western edge of the world,
everything winds –

                        bejeweled
beaches below the balcony
where we lay loop
to our left and right.

Streets rise
from the Pacific Coast Highway
into spiraling hills of secluded
bungalows, fern pines,
the twisted limbs of displaced
Australian willows.

The ocean weaves
crystal threads of distance over
distance, untangles
its white curls on the shore,
salt sacrifice.

                      It slides retrograde
to be reborn, to keep time
with the ebb and flow
of your form against me        away
from me.

              Our curves and
fine lines entwine      pull
back as hooked strands
of iridescent pearls.

* California shoreline from Redondo Beach to Malibu.

 

 

V

metaphors for leaving
not wanting to

You spoon inside me, crescent moon within a moon on this long black bench,
     your spine
against my breasts, my arms laced through to your waist, holding on.

 

I enfold you the way this State clutches everything to its east. California travels down
your cheek as salt water, carrying grief      joy      loneliness      longing
in December.

 

The space between our bodies is the crooked coast, somewhere in the middle of
     isolation
and isolation; ocean to the west, desert to the east, civilization thumping at its core.

Your tears are the shape of this place,

graceful drifting south

and golden.

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